South Carolina Landlord Tenant Laws

A Look at South Carolina Landlord Tenant Laws

If you are in or entering into a landlord tenant relationship, there are a number of regulations the state of South Carolina has in place that are designed to protect the interests of both parties in a fair and equitable fashion. In South Carolina, these regulations are found in the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, S.C. Code Ann. §§ 27-40.  This statute covers most issues that arise between landlord and tenant, but not all issues are governed by a statue, which is why it is important to sign a lease. A lease is a legal document that contains most details that are important to know, such as whether or not pets are allowed, the amount of the security deposit paid, the amount of rent and the due, to name a few.

What’s in a Lease?

Although many landlord/ tenant relationships are very successful with a written lease, it is wise to have one. Because there are a number items not governed by South Carolina legislation, having these covered in the lease turns this ambiguous terms into a legal contract. If you need help negotiating a lease, the friendly folks at the South Carolina Realtors Association are happy to help.

Security Deposit

In South Carolina, several security deposit details are not covered under legislation. These include: security deposit maximums, pet deposits, deposit interest, non-refundable fees, and security deposit bank accounts. There are aspects of the security deposit that are governed. For example, statute § 27-40-410(a) requires the landlord to return the security deposit within 30 days after the lease terminates and the tenant has relinquished possession of the property and sent a demand for return. The tenant must supply a forwarding address for the return of the deposit. If the tenant fails to provide this information, the tenant is not entitled to recover damages related to a non-returned deposit.

The landlord may use the deposit to cover costs for unpaid rent and for purposeful damages not related to normal wear and tear under statutes  §§ 27-40-510 and § 27-40-410(a). Section (a) also requires the landlord to provide a written accounting of damages and costs. Statute § 27-40-410(c) “Disclosure of Deposit Amounts” requires the landlord to provide tenants with methods for calculating deposits when renting more than four adjoining units. If the landlord fails to comply with regulations governing the return of the deposit, the tenant may seek an amount equal to three times the deposit plus attorney’s fees according to statute § 27-40-410(b).

Rent and Fees

In South Carolina, rent is due as agreed upon in the lease and can be paid from the tenant’s home § 27-40-310(c). Late fees are not governed; however, they may be considered rent for the purposes of collection § 27-40-210 (11). No statutes govern application fees prepaid rent, grace periods or rent increase notices. Returned check fees of $30 are allowed § 34-11-70.

Tenants are allowed to withhold rent in the event the landlord fails to provide essential services such as heat and water § 27-40-630(a)(1)§ 27-40-640. Statute § 27-40-630(c) disallows tenants from making repairs and deducting them from the rent § 27-40-630(c). If the landlord attempts to perform a  “Self help” eviction using these tactics, tenants may under statute § 27-40-760 and my recover their possessions and injuries in the amount of twice the amount of actual damages or three times the amount of one month’s rent.

The landlord is allowed to recover court costs and attorney’s fees under statute § 27-40-770(c), § 27-40-750. Landlords are required to reduce the damages to the tenant by re-renting as soon as possible under statute § 27-40-730(c).

In the case of an abandoned property, statute § 27-40-730(a) requires that a continuous period of 15 days where the tenant is absent from the unit or has failed to pay rent, constituting abandonment. If the tenant has discontinued utility services, and has a period of unexplained absence following a failure to pay rent, the property may be assumed to be abandoned § 27-40-730(b). If the tenant has abandoned the property, the landlord may dispose of personal property with a value less than $500 (§ 27-40-730(d)) and will not be held responsible disposals over $500 unless the tenant can prove gross negligence by the landlord § 27-40-730(f).

Entry and Notices

South Carolina statutes § 27-40-530(a), § 27-40-530(b)(1 , § 27-40-530(b)(2) prohibit tenants from preventing entry by the landlord for inspections, repairs, maintenance, showings and several other specific situations as listed in the statute. Entry during emergency and non-emergency situation, for pest control is allowed in these statutes. Statute § 27-40-530(c) requires a 24 hour notice and that said entry will occur during reasonable hours. There is no statute governing entry when a tenant is thought to have abandoned the property.

Notices required to end tenancy vary according to the period of the lease. When the lease is a year long lease with a per-determined end of tenancy, no statute exists, but it is good form to always give at least a 30 day notice. A month to month lease requires a thirty day notice § 27-40-770(b). A weekly lease requires a seven day notice of intent to vacate § 27-40-770(a).

If there is a violation of the lease, the landlord may serve the tenant a 14 day notice to vacate under statute § 27-40-710(a). When a tenant fails to pay rent, the landlord may serve the tenant a 5 day notice of intent to terminate tenancy and may file for eviction on the sixth day unless this is already stipulated in a written lease, in which case no written notice is required § 27-40-710(b). No statute governs move in or out inspection date and time.

Other Concerns and Pertinent Information

There are some things to keep in mind. Although there are guidelines in place for damaged parties to recover their losses, these are sought in small claims courts and in South Carolina the maximum award is $7,500. To help avoid this, the state of South Carolina has created both Landlord Duties § 27-40-440 and Tenant Duties § 27-40-510.

Landlord Duties as described in the legislation require the landlord to comply with housing and building codes that affect health and safety and must deliver the property according South Caroline statute § 27-40-430 under Landlord Duties. The landlord’s responsibilities also include repairs and maintenance, supplying heat and water unless the tenant has exclusive control and is able to purchase utilities directly.

Landlords are required to disclose the presence of lead in the residence and to supply tenants with a pamphlet that outlines the health and safety concerns about lead.

Tenant Duties also require compliance with housing and building codes. Tenants are required to keep the property clean, must dispose of their garbage properly, are required to keep fixtures and appliances clean as their condition allows. No is expected to make an old appliance look new. Tenants are expected to conduct themselves in a lawful manor and conducting themselves in a manner that allows for “quiet enjoyment.” This rule prevents disturbing the peace.

Tenants are protected from retaliatory evictions after the tenant has notified a governmental agency in regard to safety and health issues they are experiencing in the residence  § 27-40-910. This also applies if the resident has complained directly to the landlord as well.

Although we have presented several statutes found in South Carolina Landlord Tenant legislation, this is by no means an complete listing of all the statutes and situations that may arise between landlord and tenant.

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